Last autumn I was enrolled at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, cybernetics faculty, program engineering. First semester and the examination session have already finished, and I can share some of my impressions, conclusions and thoughts.
University differs from school a lot, and after you graduate from school a new page of your life begins.
Firstly, you start learning only that subject area, which you like, and have much less subjects. In the first semester I studied 7 subjects: introduction to computer programming (on C++), discrete mathematics, analytical geometry & linear algebra, English, mathematical analysis, physical basics of computer electronics, and history of education (a very minor subject).
In most days our classes start at 8:40 at finish at 13:55. During this time we have three classes (45 mins + 5 min break + 45 mins each) and 2 breaks between them (20 and 10 mins). So, you have more time outside classrooms, than at school.
Knowledge assessment is also very different. We mostly earn points on 2-3 tests per semester, or on labs. So, there is no constant tension, and you choose in most cases, whether you want to master some learning material gradually during two months or to have an extremely stressful week without sleep before a test or an exam. Personally I like such an approach, because you study as you like, as you feel comfortable. Nobody cares about your notes, about your understanding of homework, ect. That's your task to study, to ask your lecturers and find the information you need.
Personally I had difficulties in mathmatical analysis and computer electronics because I didn't get enough knowledge in this subject area in a linguistics class. However, it is easy to catch up. And the level of English allows me to use tons of information related to programming, some of which are uneasy to find in Ukrainian.
In the building of the faculty we have a free space for students called “Chitalka”, where you can chill out, code, watch a movie or work on a project with friends. Very often there occur free lectures and workshops of successful people from the IT industry, who tell things your preps won't tell you.
Students not only study, but also have fun and enjoy life. Most events are fully organized by students, mostly those who are in the Student Parlaiment. The first two for freshmen are the picnik of freshmen and the presentation of freshmen. On the presentation each group from each speciality presents a creative performance, and then they compete who is better. On Halloween quite a fascinating quest was organized, and my team won:) Later, in December, the final round of Miss Cybernetics faculty took place. The event was quite fancy and occured in a club in the city center.
On the cybernetics faculty there's a special atmosphere, I would say, faculty spirit. We gently call it 'kubik', either for the cubic form of the building, or for similar sounding with the word "cyber". Most of the students are very proud to study here, so it's easy to feel patriotism of the faculty. However, there's also patriotism of a speciality, common jokes, traditions and legends among it's students.
To my amusement, all the people I met here are friendly, smart and open-minded. And for those who are convinced that people from IT are typical geeks I assert, that they truly enjoy to joke and fool.
I'm not sure, if there's such a unique atmosphere in the University overall, but my life is mostly concerned inside the faculty.